Race and Sports in the UK


by Shariq
17th June, 2006 at 10:27 pm    

A while back Sunny posted on the treatment Joseph Harker recieved on his concern over St George’s flags in London. Interestingly there’s a somewhat similar post at The New Republic’s World Cup Blog by Jesse Zwick, an American Jew, over his initial response to landing in Germany in the midst of a nationalistic fervour not seen since the Nazi’s.

However Jesse’s views changed as he saw the crowd at the Germany-Poland game react to the introduction of the exciting young black player David Odonkor. As Jesse says,

“When this young black man appeared on the sidelines to the loudest cheers I had heard all night from my German companions, something inside me changed. I no longer feared the cheers of “Deutcsh-land” that came pouring forth, but rather embraced them. For if this new German nationalism can embrace a half-Ghanaian boy as its national hero, its good enough for me. And when his cross led to German ecstasy across the country, I too, I must admit, was ecstatic.

Without a doubt Britain is also being enveloped by patriotic zeal. Events such as winning the Olympics and the Ashes have given Team England a seemingly unshakeable confidence. However unlike before race and nationality seem to have gone down different paths. Whereas previously the St George’s flag was used by the National Front, its now embraced by people as diverse as Wayne Rooney and Monty Panesar. The colour of the passport has replaced the colour of the skin as the object which even the popular press looks too. After the last Olympics, Amir Khan and Kelly Holmes received as much if not more publicity than someone like Matthew Pinsent.

Of course one can’t be too optimistic as there are always dangers. Firstly the French Football team was hailed as a multi-racial symbol of the ‘new France’ and a triumph over Le Pen’s National Front. So you can imagine my surprise when I saw that Le Pen got over 20% of the vote in the last Presidential elections. He’s expected to do well next time as well.

Secondly not everyone is blessed with the same talent as a Ravinder Bopara (will be in the England Cricket team sooner rather than later) or Syed from the Apprentice. A lot of people have to get through the drudgery of everyday life often unemployed, or facing the inevitable politics of the workplace, where they may be isolated as being outsiders for any number of reasons.

Finally I think its possible to argue that race has been replaced by Xenophobia as the predominant worry in the UK. This can be seen in the hostility to white Eastern European migrants and the EU in general, Asylum seekers from anywhere other than Zimbabwe and the position of England football manager.

I don’t support the Tebbitt test, but while I think its important to remain vigilent of future Tebbits there is reason to be cautiously optimistic. Amir Khan’s father celebrated his son’s triumph at Athens as being a victory for both Britain and Pakistan and the nation responded. Monty Panesar is accepted in the England team despite his beard and turban proving you don’t have to be as anglocised as Nasser Hussain to suceed. The only question which remains for the time being – whether too support that pesky, paraguay shirt wearing, Scottish tennis brat also known as Andy Murray.


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  1. Robert — on 17th June, 2006 at 11:17 pm  

    Without a doubt Britain is also being enveloped by patriotic zeal.

    Is it really, though? I’m not sure World Cup Fever can be described in those terms, especially when mentioned in the same post as rather more potent political movements.

    We’re patriotic for the football team, sure. But I would say its a specific, and tounge-in-cheek patriotism. We’ll support the team at any cost.. even if it means holding sporting opinions that fly in the face of rationality (we will win). But I can’t see the World Cup having anything other than a very temporary, transient political significance. Its only a game, and I think most Britons realise that.

  2. Robert — on 17th June, 2006 at 11:24 pm  

    Ah yes, and regarding:

    . A lot of people have to get through the drudgery of everyday life often unemployed, or facing the inevitable politics of the workplace, where they may be isolated as being outsiders for any number of reasons.

    OpenDemocracy.net have published very interesting article on this subject: ‘Multiculturalism at Work’ by Ruben Andersson. He looks at the lives of immigrant workers, and how different ethnicities gravitate to different work sectors.

  3. sweety — on 18th June, 2006 at 5:40 am  

    this is why i support france even though im not french. most multicultural team playing.

  4. Chairwoman — on 18th June, 2006 at 10:30 am  

    As a 60 year old British Jewish woman, I am always heartened when, during periods of sporting patriotism, I see cars driven by Black and Asian people flying the flag of St. George. Obviously the religious aspect of the flag means absolutely nothing to me, but the cultural one does.

    Personally, however, I would be reluctant to fly it as I wouldn’t want to be considered racist.

    The thing I like about America is the way all the individual ethnic groups appear to consider themselves to be Blank (insert name of preferred ethnic group) Americans.

  5. sonia — on 18th June, 2006 at 10:53 am  

    Interesting article and interesting responses.

  6. El Cid — on 18th June, 2006 at 11:29 am  

    Personally, however, I would be reluctant to fly it as I wouldn’t want to be considered racist

    Get a grip lilly-livered Chairwoman!

  7. El Cid — on 18th June, 2006 at 11:42 am  

    Two very interesting articles in today’s Observer that touch upon sport, England and race, specifically Asians.
    One is on Asian support for England at the World Cup and the other is by Urmee Khan and chronicles her return to Beeston one year after 7/7.
    This is the kind of journalism we deserve on matters of race — it’s not headline grabbing, or even newsy, but it’s positive and it gives the reader a more balanced and accurate view of each other’s communities.

  8. El Cid — on 18th June, 2006 at 11:47 am  

    Let’s try that link again:Asian support for England

  9. Dave Hill — on 18th June, 2006 at 2:13 pm  

    The broadened ethnic (and gender) mix of England’s fans abroad and their generally impressive good behaviour is presently a universal Good News Story. See The Observer today…

    http://observer.guardian.co.uk/sport/story/0,,1800344,00.html

    …and the Sun yesterday:

    http://www.thesun.co.uk/article/0,,2-2006271011,2.html

    However, there has been a downside on the ‘home front’ as Angela Foster reported in yesterday’s Guardian:

    http://www.guardian.co.uk/commentisfree/story/0,,1799662,00.html

    Also, the big picture seems to have some revealing nuances as I suggest here:

    http://davehill.typepad.com/temperama/2006/06/englishness_foo.html

    and, by implication, here:

    http://davehill.typepad.com/temperama/2006/06/down_my_way_foo.html

    These caveats aside, though, let’s hope the Good News Story runs and runs.

    Best Wishes.

  10. Chairwoman — on 18th June, 2006 at 2:59 pm  

    El Cid – Perhaps I am lily livered these days, but I have arrived at an age when being heckled by a group of young people of any class, gender, race, or religious persuasion is intimidating, and, frankly, as a generation you are all so gratuitously foul-mouthed (and I am not beyond using four-letter words where appropriate), that these days I do indeed take the cowards way out.

    I have commented twice on this site, and both times I have been insulted, thank you for your hospitality and good manners.

  11. Sunny — on 18th June, 2006 at 3:41 pm  

    Chairwoman – when was the second time? I accept QueenBee was unthinkingly hostile on the forced marriage thread. But since then?

  12. Chairwoman — on 18th June, 2006 at 3:48 pm  

    How about El Cid. Lily livered, that was pretty offensive.

  13. Amir — on 18th June, 2006 at 4:17 pm  

    Chairwomen,

    Hold on a sec… don’t go. El-Cid’s style – like mine – is acerbic. And people tend to superimpose their own tone of voice onto it – typically, an unflattering tone.

    However, I am somewhat bemused that you would equate the St. George’s Cross with racism? If that’s how you feel, then it says a lot about the state of this country. The Commission on Racial Equality, for instance, challenged the concept of ‘Britishness’ and advocated a formal declaration that the UK is ‘a multicultural society.’ In other words: national identity is equated to ‘false consciousness,’ whereas the identities of alien cultures are protected and preserved like an endangered species through special laws, illiberal exemptions, state funding, anti-discriminatory programs and busybody quangos. Aside from being normatively unacceptable, such policies also further inflame the majority’s fears that immigrants will destroy all that they hold dear.

    The Marxist narrative (political correctness) is New Labour’s most remarkable achievement and is the biggest attack on British patriotism since the Anglophobic communists of the 1940s. Anyone who calls Anthony Blair ‘right-wing’ or ‘conservative’ would do well to swap his existing brain for a monkey brain. Just because he supports privatisation and free markets doesn’t make him right-wing. Nationalisation was actually abandoned by Labour in the late 1950s, when it switched to support comprehensive state schools as its main weapon. New Labour is more electable now because of its image, presentation and tactics. But it has never changed its objective. It wants a socialist, egalitarian Britain – but through cultural revolution, progressive taxation and politically-correct schooling rather than through state control of industry. Today, New Labour’s arsenal now includes multiculturalism, devolution and a laissez-faire approach to immigration.

    If anyone needs lessons in anti-racism… then it’s this guy – not English football supporters.

    Amir

  14. Don — on 18th June, 2006 at 4:41 pm  

    Chairwoman,

    El Cid was just joshing, he’s not the insulting kind. Stick around.

    As for the flag, things are changing. I have been wary of it myself since the 70′s and can’t see myself flying one ( I’m probably a snob) but I am starting to feel slightly optimistic that it is being reclaimed from the knuckle-draggers.

    My brother (a right-wing cop) always gives me a cheeseboard and a pack of socks for Christmas (maybe a sub-text there)and one year the socks had the Cross of St George emblem. When I crossed my legs my friends reacted as though I had suddenly acquired fascist ankles and they might have to amputate at the knee to stop the infection spreading.

  15. Chairwoman — on 18th June, 2006 at 5:32 pm  

    Hi Amir, I’ve just followed your link, and am now sitting with my head in my hands, but I do understand where he’s coming from, he’s jut mis-informed.

    When I was growing up in Golders Green (always a N W London Jewish enclave, but in those days not full of the ultra-orthodox)in the sixties, teenagers would meet by the telephone boxes at Golders Green Station at 7 on Saturday evenings, and there were a lot of us, I would estimate in excess of 100. And every Saturday the local constabulary would move us on, and every Sunday I would complain to my parents who told me that the police were antisemitic, it was a fact of life and I should swallow it. One week my father was fed up with hearing about it, so, unbeknownst to me, he wandered up the road and had a look. The next day he told me that though the police probably were antisemitic, we were loud, causing an obstruction, appeared threatening, and were generally inconsiderate. In his opinion the police were handling a difficult situation correctly and he wouldn’t listen to any more whining. We too were finding prejudice where none was intended.

    I appreciate it’s different for me, what with all the media controlling I do, which when combined with secretly running the New World Order, and having to be a twelve foot lizard for at least part of the day (when in fact I’d rather be at Brent Cross) takes up an awful lot of my time, but in reality power rests with those who have money and/or class. It doesn’t matter who they are, where they come from, or what they look like, these attributes make them a race apart, and they control the rest of us.

    Hello Don, yes the taste issue is quite a big deal with the flag, though as these days I’m forced to own a Fiat Multipla I should keep quiet about that. But it shouldn’t be, the flag of St. George is the national flag of everybody born in England and we should treat it with respect.

    When my mother was a girl going to school in the east end in the twenties, the schools turned those children of immigrants into little English children, I’ve told this story before, but they taught them the language, they taught them the history and they taught them the customs,and the children went home and taught the parents. They included them. If people feel excluded, it’s because they are, and it’s the fault of all of use who were already here.

    Wear your socks with pride.

    El cid, to call someone of my age, brought up on the stiff upper lip, lily livered, is fighting talk. When I’m better, and out of this damn chair, I hope I’ll be gutsier again. Nobody could get out of a car in a fit of road rage faster than I could!

  16. Katy Newton — on 18th June, 2006 at 6:07 pm  

    When you mess with the Chairwoman you mess with all the Newtons, by which I mean me! Who dissed my mama?

    I’ve just done one of those open-top bus sightseeing London tours. Everyone should do one. Next time I might even remember to wear sunscreen.

  17. mirax — on 18th June, 2006 at 7:42 pm  

    Don’t worry Katy, your Mama is holding her own quite nicely.

    I expect El to sheepishly shuffle in any minute now mumbling an apology of sorts…

  18. mirax — on 18th June, 2006 at 7:50 pm  

    Chairwoman, people on the net don’t *know* you,
    “hospitality and good manners” are not the norm, really.

    However it is very bad form to be rude to friends’ mums – now that we know you’re Kate’s mum, which is kinda a cool thing for PP, some of us will behave better.

  19. Kismet Hardy — on 18th June, 2006 at 7:57 pm  

    mum jokes? Is it really time for mum jokes?

    somebody sandpaper my drooling tongue

  20. Katy Newton — on 18th June, 2006 at 8:10 pm  

    Thanks, mirax, she usually does once she gets into the swing of things.

    I shall refrain from challenging El Cid to a duel for the moment, but I wish it to be understood that I am an opponent to be feared and dreaded in open combat!

    “… some of us will behave better…”

    Not Kismet, apparently.

    *looks for sandpaper*

  21. mirax — on 18th June, 2006 at 8:32 pm  

    El’s spanish right? If he is anything like my bf who’s half spanish, he’ll be mortified that he was so off hand to someone’s *mum*.

    Put that sword to better use on kismet and snip off an appendage. Or two. Just to preempt any talk (you know it is inevitable with him) of kinky threesomes…

  22. Kismet Hardy — on 18th June, 2006 at 8:50 pm  

    Too right. I once had a 100% kink-free threesome. What a waste of my mother’s life savings

    In fact, I’ve stopped having sex altogether and have instead dedicated my life to the pursuit of porn. As they say, the penthouse is mightier than the pork sword

  23. mirax — on 18th June, 2006 at 9:48 pm  

    >once had a 100% kink-free threesome

    what,used both hands?

  24. Katy Newton — on 18th June, 2006 at 9:57 pm  

    *hi-fives mirax*

  25. El Cid — on 18th June, 2006 at 10:07 pm  

    What you say about my mum?
    Oh you didn’t — that’s alright then.
    Don’t mess with me now.
    And put a damn St George on your car (where do you get them from anyway — looking for a Spanish one to go on the other side, for that authentic Anglo-Spanish chav look)

  26. shariq — on 18th June, 2006 at 10:50 pm  

    Robert, thanks for the open Democracy link. It was very interesting reading.

  27. Kismet Hardy — on 18th June, 2006 at 11:08 pm  

    “what,used both hands?”

    Bless you Mirax for even imagining both my hands could wrap around my uzi 9mm

    PS. Those ‘enlarge your penis’ spam emails you get everyday… they don’t work

  28. El Cid — on 18th June, 2006 at 11:10 pm  

    Chairwoman, foul mouthed I may be, but if I saw you on the tube I’d probably offer you my seat.
    60 though ain’t exactly that old – ain’t it the new 40 these days?
    You’re on t’internet too. Pretty racy if you ask me.
    Go on, get yourself an ickle flag. Seize the day.

  29. Kismet Hardy — on 18th June, 2006 at 11:16 pm  

    Oh, if I may be relevant for just one second… I’ve been playing a little game during my long walk through the city everyday. I raise my left leg for every car driven by an afro-caribbean bearing a st george’s flag; I raise my right for every car driven by an Asian; while for every caucasian, I simply raise my left hand.

    To my joy and surprise, I’ve been raising my feet much more often than my hand, but other than that, I just look like a weird bangladeshi goosestepping around town

    I go to bed alone, you know

  30. Amir — on 18th June, 2006 at 11:25 pm  

    I go to bed alone, you know

    Isn’t that a Morrisey lyric?

  31. Alec Macpherson — on 19th June, 2006 at 7:43 am  

    ==> Whereas previously the St George’s flag was used by the National Front

    I would disagree. The Union Jack was used in such an overtly racist fashion; St George’s flag was seen as peripheral and eccentric. Like homemade jam and tupperware, only margionally more serious than St Pirian’s flag. Racist groups now are adopting it, of course, but only as a result of its increased profile.

    Also, from the Ashes I remember hearing a story of Sikh fans sporting a flag incorporating a Sikh religious symbol (don’t know which one, it was one the radio).

  32. funkg — on 19th June, 2006 at 10:14 am  

    yes it can be heartening to hear that a lot more black and asian football fans are adopting the flag, but personally i find the whole tone of this sudden realisation of ethnic fans supporting england patronising. my own cousin (cyrille regis)played the 1982 world cup for england and had a number of england caps, which team did my family support? doh england of course. You can go back as far as the 19th century to realis that players like Arthur Wharton, was the first black player to play in an english league and im sure that he had plenty of support from ethnics then ’cause we did not just arrive after world war 2. the lack of historical and local knowledge amongst some so called journalist infuriates me, i think this is to do with their ‘middleclassdom’. amongst working class communities especially in londons east end where i originate, there was always support for local sides such as west ham and millwall and for england as a whole amongst some blacks and asians. west ham even had a black man head up their holigan firm in the 70s and 80s so did millwall at one time. these black guys were totally ‘assimilated’ and proper east end cockneys, so when i saw the report with a picture of a black african carribean in an england shirt as some type of shining example i though how ridiculous, like me his family could of lived in england for over 50 years!

  33. sonia — on 19th June, 2006 at 10:40 am  

    yeah funkg’s got a point. people are being very silly about this sudden business of oh my god why hasn’t anyone been ‘assimilating’ and in that context they suddenly look around and realize how ‘assimilated’ most people already are. just because the focus has been on some marginalized individuals or groups..everyone’s forgotten about everything else.

  34. sonia — on 19th June, 2006 at 10:41 am  

    “I’ve just done one of those open-top bus sightseeing London tours. Everyone should do one”.

    i’ve always wondered why tourists were so foolish to pay extra to get on one of those buses when they could get on a standard london bus for less money. i suppose they like feeling like they may fall out any second..

  35. funkg — on 19th June, 2006 at 11:31 am  

    what does ‘assimilating’ mean anyway especially now? does it mean drinking in your local pub alongside surjit the sikh pensioner? or going down the bookies and having a wager with ‘delroy’ a 70 year old who has lived in south london for 60 years? its funny you only have to go to notting hill to an ‘old mans pub’ and see white and black pensioners drinking togther like they have always done to realise its old news for us. i personally think that when the children of the home counties ‘liberal’ white middle class come to london, they dont often have a true understanding of london. the old white working classes, the ones chastised as chavs and racist, were often the ones who were already were living amongst the ethnics and may of whom had/have best friends who are black or asian, but thru circumstances of housing, employment etc, developed racist tendancy towards others especially asylum seekers.

  36. Charlie Brown — on 19th June, 2006 at 11:34 am  

    It’s only the mainstream papers that are astonished by this, or people in London who expect every black or Asian person (especially Asians) in this country as living in holes and they only come out at noght. Everyone I know, every where I go, all Asian people are supporting England. The Union Jack had racist overtones for Asians and Blacks in the 1970′s and 1980′s because of the NF but the times have changed and the flag of St George has none of those implications now and nobody blinks an eye when Indian boys or girls wear England shirts. Except for newspapers and scratch their heads in confusion. This disbelief is their problem.

  37. sonia — on 19th June, 2006 at 11:38 am  

    spot on charlie. when people have strong ideas about the way they think things are, they find it surprising when they find evidence to the contrary..

  38. Charlie Brown — on 19th June, 2006 at 11:40 am  

    I remember on FA Cup Final day they were interviewing Liverpool and West Ham fans outside the Millenium stadium and one of the West Ham fans was a boisteorus middle aged Sikh man in a claret turban with his mates, all middle aged balding cockneys. I also have Indian mates who travelled to Istanbul to see Liverpool win the European Cup. Now all of a sudden these journalists are saying – ‘Gosh, how amazing, Asians supporting England and going to matches, how shocking’

    Sometimes I think the media is so completely out of touch with the grassroots realities of life on the streets and how people live. They dont have a clue. The media only present things in a way that simplifies everything and when the reality and complexity of life makes itself clear, they write patronising articles about how jolly good it is to see Asians at football matches and it’s like – where have you been the last 15 years?

  39. sonia — on 19th June, 2006 at 11:50 am  

    “Sometimes I think the media is so completely out of touch with the grassroots realities of life on the streets and how people live. They dont have a clue. The media only present things in a way that simplifies everything and when the reality and complexity of life makes itself clear..”

    that’s the media for you all right! it’s all this ‘broadcast’ stuff – we’ll tell You like it is – one to many type of media, instead of distributed, many to many forms of media. and big institutions who’ve got a stranglehold on the media – well they like it the way it is..

  40. funkg — on 19th June, 2006 at 12:43 pm  

    spot on sonia and to you charlie!
    charlie, your right about the union jack i suppose, the england flag does have lesser implications especially us older ones (im 37) who grew up in the 70s at the time of the NF, british movement etc. but even back then i dont remember seeing the full unin jack regalia on footy fans. i did not want to bang on about this subject, but when i see what is probably a ’3rd generation’ black british fan as an example of how right on and PC we have all become, i ask ya?! like i said even west ham and millwall ‘hooligans’had black men as their ‘governer’in the late 70s, now much much more diversity can you get than that?!

  41. sonia — on 19th June, 2006 at 1:55 pm  

    yes and people also overlook the fact that there have always been plenty of English individuals who don’t go around draping themselves in the flag because – erm…they’re not footie people or just people who’re not into ‘symbolic’ displays. and personally i’ve never carried any nation’s flag around or supported sports teams on the basis of ‘belonging’/identity and i have lots of friends from different places, including england, who’ve much the same sort of attitude. you know – not being particularly interested in the ‘gang’/'team’ mentality. anarchists – you know..;-)

  42. Kismet Hardy — on 19th June, 2006 at 2:09 pm  

    As far as uniforms go, the most beautiful thing I’ve had the pleasure of witnessing has been the transformation of the bovver boots, rolled up tight jeans, white vest, bomber jacket and suedehead go from the NF to the gay amyl massive

    Beautiful

  43. funkg — on 19th June, 2006 at 2:19 pm  

    your right kismet,
    i was terrified of skins when i was a child, worried they were going to put the boot in, now all i got to concern myself with is are they going to chat me up!

  44. Kismet Hardy — on 19th June, 2006 at 2:27 pm  

    It is a big concern. I went to G.A.Y the other night and didn’t get hit on once. The humiliation. At least the NF were more forthcoming when it came to chasing me…

  45. Shaan69 — on 19th June, 2006 at 2:43 pm  

    Are you gay kismet?

  46. Kismet Hardy — on 19th June, 2006 at 2:45 pm  

    According to my collection of pornography, I’m into women and, to some extent, animals.

    But to ask a complete stranger about his sexual preferences is as shallow as judging a person by his shoes

  47. mirax — on 19th June, 2006 at 4:53 pm  

    >But to ask a complete stranger about his sexual preferences is as shallow as judging a person by his shoes

    I concur.

    (shame about the blokes not fancying you; but if that leaves more of your delectable self for us women/beasts of the field…Yippee!)

  48. El Cid — on 19th June, 2006 at 10:09 pm  

    Charlie boy, I know you mean well but journalists mostly write what’s newsworthy and what’s newsworthy is negative or conflict-based.. hence it’s still a welcome change to read what is positive, even if i long know it to be true. If journalism is about truth then it fits the bill.
    Ask Asians what annoys them about the way they are portrayed in the media. I’ll take a wager with you that these sorts of articles aren’t top of their list of gripes. Get off your high horse ..

  49. Charlie Brown — on 19th June, 2006 at 10:24 pm  

    Sorry El Cid, I was just stating my viewpoint – that’s all – Perfectly legitimate viewpoint and lots of people feel the same, so there!

  50. El Cid — on 19th June, 2006 at 10:51 pm  

    Hey this was quite cool too, even if it’s about race and sport in the U.S.A:
    http://blogs.guardian.co.uk/worldcup06/2006/06/19/the_americans_are_at_war_its_l.html
    Good night

  51. Roger — on 20th June, 2006 at 8:36 am  

    “But to ask a complete stranger about his sexual preferences is as shallow as judging a person by his shoes ”
    More shallow.
    People lie. Shoes don’t.

  52. Kismet Hardy — on 20th June, 2006 at 12:25 pm  

    Mirax we should honeymoon

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